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Texas Comptroller Targets Systemic Flaws of Federal Regulations

As a Texas oil and gas attorney, I have followed with great interest the tumultuous relationship that seems to perpetually exist between Texas and its landowners on one hand, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the other. Unfortunately, some misguided policymakers are under the mistaken notion that the EPA is working to protect the environment, and that the efforts of Texas and other states to fight those federal regulations are misguided. That oversimplification could not be further from the truth.

As Texas Comptroller Susan Combs explained in a recent editorial published in the Star Telegram, Texans are committed to the well-being of their air, land, and water. If legitimate steps need to be taken to protect the long-term well-being of our resources, Texans have and will continue to be the first to step up and take action. Unfortunately, many of the EPA’s latest regulations and requirements passed in the name of environmental protection actually protect next to nothing, and have no scientific basis whatsoever, yet come with very significant detrimental consequences for Texas residents.

1369356_fall_tree_by_lake.jpg As Combs notes, “private landowners are the best stewards of their own property.” She goes on to say that the EPA continues to ignore the knowledge and reasonableness of our private property owners when making arbitrary decisions that have effects on their land and lives. Even more troubling, at times the Agency seems to specifically target Texas in ways that defy common sense and scientific reality. For example, Combs discussed the EPA’s new “cross-states” air pollution rule. The new regulation will disproportionately affects Texans. The measure targets nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. Texas plants produce roughly eleven percent of the sulfur dioxide targeted by the regulation, yet, inexplicably, Texas is being ordered to absorb a quarter of the reductions-more than double its actual share.

Anyone who understands the energy industry in our state understands the significant impacts the regulation will have. The state’s largest power generator, Luminant, explained that the rule will eliminate 500 Texas jobs as two generating units are being idled and three ignite mine operations halted. In addition, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas reported that the rule may increase electricity rates for consumers, because the state’s generation capacity will be reduced in the peak load months of summer.

Considering the consequences of these regulations, particularly in light of the already tough economic circumstances, one would expect the regulations to be based on some scientific evidence and enacted only after input from those affected. Unfortunately, neither is true. As the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality explained, the EPA’s own forecasting models did not reveal that these emissions had any significant impact on other states. On top of that, Texas wasn’t even included in the new requirements until the final version of the rule was adopted, meaning that no one from the state had the opportunity to provide comment or feedback on the regulations while they were being discussed.

Other examples of EPA overreach abound. Proposed EPA jurisdiction expansions may allow the agency to control isolated wetlands, streams, and other purely local pools of water such as stock tanks. The EPA has not produced a single scientific reason why the expansion is necessary. Yet, the action would place many Texas construction projects in jeopardy. The uncertainty, time delays, and other permitting challenges foisted upon residents by federal bureaucracies will have ramifications throughout the state.

As a Texas oil and gas attorney who works with landowners on a variety of issues, I am well aware of the systemic problems unnecessarily faced by local residents because of misguided EPA conduct. As Comptroller Combs explains in her editorial, it is important for all Texans to remain aware of these developments and to make their voices heard on a national level.

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